NAHB encourages the expansion of guest worker programs that complement ongoing domestic recruitment and training efforts to ensure a workforce that can meet the nation’s housing construction needs.
Some in the building industry have turned to temporary guest worker programs after exhausting their options to obtain local, domestic labor for work in trades such as roofing, carpentry, drywall installation and landscaping.
The H-2B temporary non-agricultural worker program, while costly and bureaucratically challenging, has allowed some employers with peak, seasonal labor needs to secure additional workers to supplement their regular employees. These visas are available to a broad swath of seasonal industries for which temporary labor demand is high.
Given the chronic labor shortages facing the home building industry, NAHB has been urging both Congress and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand the number of H-2B visas available each year, including restoring an exemption for returning H-2B workers from counting toward the program's annual statutory cap.
Current Status of the Program
The H-2B program has an annual cap of 66,000 visas that can be issued nationwide each year (33,000 for each half). Workers who came into the United States on an H-2B visa in any of three prior years were previously exempted from being counted towards that total, but Congress allowed this exemption to expire in September 2016. As a result, the pool of available visas has been exhausted prematurely every year since, shutting out many companies who have used H-2B labor in the past.
On May 21, 2021, DHS and Department of Labor announced that an additional 22,000 H-2B guest worker visas would be made available to employers suffering “irreparable harm” without these workers for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2021. Of those visas, 16,000 will be limited to returning H-2B workers, and 6,000 are specifically designated for workers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. To learn more, view the Department of Homeland Security news release.
For more information about the overall program, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services web site.
NAHB hosted a webinar to help members learn about H-2B and other U.S. immigration programs that can help businesses employ foreign-born workers.